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Millennials enact positive change in America’s health

The health status in America evolves with inventions of technology and millennials may be the driving force of change.

For years, obesity, opioid prescriptions and mental health has been on the rise, according to Pew Research Center. The World Health Organization reported that obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 and at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being obese or overweight. According to a report by Statista, 71 percent of people believe that obesity is a major issue in our nation.

Millennials, however, started to steer the nation’s health in a different direction using technology, internet and social media. They are changing the way people view living a healthy lifestyle, according to The Washington Post.

Bailey Sager, a senior business administration major, is conducting a project on fast food restaurants in America. She said that millennials are more conscious about health and are getting involved in healthy options such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, which deliver healthy meals to your home. Hello Fresh’s mission statement is “to provide each and every household in its 9 markets with the opportunity to enjoy wholesome home-cooked meals with no planning, no shopping and no hassle required,” according to CareerBuilder.

Sager said these programs help people with their serving sizes. “When you’re taking in too many calories and not exerting enough, it’s where you kind of get a lot of health issues.”

Health issues that arise from obesity include diabetes and heart disease, but Sager said that no matter how old you are, you can still start living a healthy lifestyle to prevent these issues.

“Minimal changes lead to longer lasting results,” she said. “The younger that you can start healthier eating habits, the better.”

Even fast food restaurants are incorporating menu items directed towards healthy living and people are choosing those restaurants over others. According to an IBIS World Report, restaurants such as Chipotle and Five Guys, which offer customizable meals, “have stolen market share away from traditional fast-food operators such as McDonald’s and Burger King.”

Nicole Trammell, a Taco Bell store manager, said that people have been pushing for healthier options and writing the number of calories for each item on the menu.

“Our website has all the nutritional information, that way it can help people see if they can match their needs,” Trammell said. People on a low sodium diet can use the list to determine which foods contain ingredients they can or cannot eat.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration implemented a new law on May 7, 2018, requiring chain restaurants and vending machines to provide the calories for each item. On its website, the FDA said, “Calories are important in managing your weight…Consuming too many calories can contribute to a variety of health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.”

For now, however, Trammell said there has not been any regulation monitoring the serving sizes in their restaurants, because the variety of sizes offered pleases the customers.

“The end result is making the customer happy,” Trammell said. “By being able to offer different things, different sizes, it helps [customers] make the decision on what they are wanting and needing.”

Hayden Fisher, a junior health and exercise science major at the University of Oklahoma, said the serving size in America is a huge contributor to the nation’s health.

“We eat way more than we should and the quality of food compared to other countries is just not good,” Fisher said. “Other countries use a lot better ingredients.  A lot of our stuff is processed and so it all just goes into the body and does damage.”

According to the Public Health website, a rise in fast food sales is correlated to a rise in body mass index, which is an indicator of obesity. In Benton County, 53 percent of restaurants are classified as fast food restaurants, according to the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.

Even with a high percentage of fast food restaurants, Benton County ranked as the healthiest county in Arkansas in 2018. For the past eight years, the county attained status as the healthiest county in the state. The report publishes information on almost every county in the United States each year.

The University of Wisconsin Public Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation collaborate on the report yearly.  They compare obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, clinical care and socioeconomic factors, and in Arkansas there are 75 counties ranked. Although Benton County’s ranking is the highest, the state of Arkansas is number 48 in the nation, according to America’s Health Rankings. There could be many reasons for why Arkansas ranks so low.

Fisher, said in the South and Midwest the motivation level to live a healthy lifestyle are not as high as in other parts of the country.

“Whenever you come to the Midwest, it really changes because this is fried food, southern traditions, like fairs,” Fisher said. “It just completely depends on where you’re at in the country.”

Food is not the only aspect of healthy living. Miranda Eaton, a physical therapist at a rehabilitation center, said that exercise and sleep are also important factors.

“You don’t need a gym membership and big fancy equipment. You can do squats and pushups or lunges and things like that.”

The American Heart Association suggests to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Even if you cannot get that much time in the gym, Eaton said you can choose healthier lifestyle choices such as parking farther away, or walking an extra lap in the grocery store.

Eaton said it is also important to get the suggested amount of steps in each day. The American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps a day, which is approximately 5 miles.

“We need to focus on being healthy [rather] than just the number on the scale.” Eaton said. “It’s all about your health, because you can come really obsessed and then it becomes a psychosocial issue.”

Millennials are turning to the internet to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle, according to the Halo Group. At least 24 percent of millennials use a health app on their phone to monitor their health and 80 percent say it’s important to eat healthy and good to indulge occasionally.

As people continue to adapt their lifestyle, they use websites, Instagram and blogs to learn about health. Younger generations use these accessories to influence the overall health of America, as they focus on their well-being.

“The ultimate millennial self-care goal is to have the solutions they need for holistic health with room to adjust for personal interpretation of their own needs and desires,” according to Forbes magazine.